Posts Tagged ‘Insects’

Off With a Bang

February 14, 2020

The square-bashing for Atlas 2020 is over but yesterday Neil, Seth and I took a walk along the River Chracaig in Portree and made a cracking start to the new year’s recording. We started with a look at some snowdrops Seth had found. As well as the standard Galanthus nivalis (Snowdrop), as he had suspected there was also something else, which turned out to be G. plicatus subsp. plicatus (Pleated Snowdrop) and a hybrid swarm of G. x valentinei (G. nivalis x plicatus).

Galanthus plicatus

Galanthus plicatus ssp. plicatus (Confirmed by Aaron Davis at Kew)

Not long after that, we fell over a mature conifer which I am pretty sure is Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Red-cedar): Later: Confirmed by Matt Parratt (BSBI Conifer referee).

Cryptomeria japonica.jpg

Cryptomeria japonica (Japanese Red-cedar)

That makes three things new to VC104.

Additionally, we added Berberis darwinii (Darwin’s Barberry) and a crocus to the list for the 10 x 10km square NG44.  I think the crocus is Crocus verna but have asked for expert advice. Later: Brian Mathew (BSBI Crocus referee) says “….the C. vernus agg….. is now split into several. I am sure the Portree Crocus is a form of one of these, the variable C. neapolitanus (Ker Gawl.) Loisel.” So another new VC record – sort of, as I have previously recorded C. vernus and C. neapolitanus is what used to be C. vernus subsp. vernus.


Crocus neapolitanus

We added a further eight taxa that were new to the tetrad including Carex sylvatica (Wood-sedge) and Sanicula europaea (Sanicle).

We found this interesting fungus (Onygena equina) growing on a sheep horn – Neil had found it near here a few months ago:


Onygena equina

an Orange Ladybird

Orange Ladybird

Orange Ladybird

and a variety of other insects, fungi and lichens. Today the weather is back to gale force with no ferry running – and set to be that way for a few days – so no more excursions for now.

Oak-related Matters

November 13, 2019

Having found Quercus cerris (Turkey Oak)  I thought I had better check for knopper galls on the local oaks of other species as Q. cerris is required for the completion of the life cycle of the gall wasp. It was only discovered in the north of Scotland in 2010 when it was found in Moray, but last year it was found on Skye.

However, like most years on Raasay, there were no acorns to be seen and so no knopper galls.  There were Common Spangle Galls caused by the cynipid wasp Neuroterus quercusbaccarum – a common thing but according to NBN not recorded from Raasay.

Spangle Galls

Spangle Galls

On a dead, fallen oak there was this fungus, False Turkey-tail or Hairy Curtain Crust (Stereum hirsutum). Thanks, Neil & Seth for id.

Bernisdale Woods

October 24, 2019

Today Skye Nature Group spent a few hours in Bernisdale Woods. We hope to have found a rare or at least seriously under-recorded woodlouse – but this requires close examination of a male, which we may or may not have captured. More in due course.

Amongst a variety of invertebrates and fungi were these photogenic ones:

Birch Shieldbug

Birch Shieldbug (Elasmostethus interstinctus)

Rosenscheldia abundans

Rosenscheldia abundans on Prunella vulgaris (Selfheal)

Typhula erythropus

Typhula erythropus (Redleg Club)

There were already a high number of vascular plants recorded in the tetrad but we added 13 taxa to the tetrad list including Bromopsis ramosa (Hairy-brome), Cytisus scoparius (Broom), Fragaria vesca (Wild Strawberry), Geranium robertianum (Herb-Robert), Montia fontana (Blinks), Picea sitchensis (Sitka Spruce), Rumex acetosella (Sheep’s Sorrel), Sanicula europaea (Sanicle), Silene dioica (Red Campion), Tsuga heterophylla (Western Hemlock-spruce), Ulmus glabra (Wych Elm), Vicia cracca (Tufted Vetch) and re-found 1992 records for Castanea sativa (Sweet Chestnut) and Populus tremula (Aspen). Common species still unrecorded include Teucrium scorodonia (Wood Sage) and Vaccinium myrtillus (Bilberry/Blaeberry).

Busy B(otanist)s

August 15, 2019

In no particular order….

Following on from my last post Seth has toured the north of Skye recording Crocosmias, adding records for C. pottsii (Potts’ Montbretia) and sowing confusion about some other specimens. See his blog post. With an addition of my own, Potts’ is now recorded in 15 tetrads, 10 hectads

As well as other forays, Martin has been to tetrad NG46J, a mostly very dull piece of moor with few plant records, but found the NW corner (the farthest from the road of course) to be more interesting and so added 20 species including Silene acaulis (Moss Campion).

John has had a good go at Heribost adding 67 taxa to tetrad NG24S including Salix x fragilis (Hybrid Crack-willow), new to NG24.

Alistair invited me to his croft in Lower Breakish with the promise of some very interesting records and indeed that is what we found. Melilotus officinalis (Ribbed Melilot) is a first vice-county record. I have asked Alistair to check ripe fruits as I am not certain that it is this rather than Melilotus altissimus (Tall Melilot) and ripe fruits will be diagnostic. Either would be new to VC104. (But see next post!)



Amsinckia micrantha (Common Fiddleneck) is new to Skye, though recorded on Muck in 1996.  The only previous record for Thlaspi arvense (Field Penny-cress) in the vice-county was from Soay in 1946. Viola arvensis (Field Pansy) had only two previous records in modern times.

At least the first three of these have come from imported topsoil purchased from the local builders’ merchant in Broadford. The provenance of the soil is unknown but it is likely to have been used all over Skye so these species may start to turn up elsewhere.

We added nine further species to the tetrad list including Chenopodium album (Fat-hen), Salix x multinervis (S. aurita x cinerea) and Veronica persica (Common Field-speedwell).

Yesterday, Skye Nature Group came to Raasay and I was able to show them Pyrola media (Intermediate Wintergreen) and Orthilia secunda (Serrated Wintergreen) along the Glam Burn. We saw this fine group of late instar Parent Bugs (Elasmucha grisea) between Glam and Inver:

Birch Shieldbug

Parent Bug Nymphs


July 28, 2019

A few things that are not fully determined (and probably won’t be) follow.

On a saltmarsh pool on Sanday:

Sanday mite

Snout mite (Bdelloidea sp.)    (Thanks, Seth)

One of the grass moths – probably Agriphila straminella (thanks, Keith) at home:

Agriphila straminella

Agriphila straminella probably

One of the three Tenthredo arcuata group of sawflies (Thanks, Murdo) at home:

Tenthredo arcuata agg.

Tenthredo arcuata agg.

Images from Colonsay – Insects

July 10, 2019
Belted Beauty larva Colonsay

Belted Beauty Larva

Celypha cespitana

Micro-moth Celypha cespitana

Omocestus viridulus

Common Green Grasshopper

Clouded Buff

Clouded Buff

Northen Eggar Larva

Northen Eggar Larva

Parasitic Wasp

Parasitic Wasp

Yellow Shell

Yellow Shell

Loch Coruisk and Beyond (Updated)

June 9, 2019

On Friday, I took the boat from Elgol to Loch Coruisk and circumnavigated the latter. At the north end I went part way up Glac Mhòr, though only to about 300m.

Loch Coruisk

Loch Coruisk from Glac Mhòr

This area is generally very species-poor but along the northeast side of the loch there is a small area of birch and hazel that yielded quite a few species not seen in the surrounding moor.

At about 300m on Glac Mhòr there is a surprisingly rich overhang with an unexpected mix of plants. As well as the unsurprising Cystopteris fragilis (Brittle Bladder-fern), Chrysosplenium oppositifolium (Opposite-leaved Golden-saxifrage), Hieracium sp. (Hawkweed) etc., there were Ficaria verna subsp. fertilis (Lesser Celandine), Geranium robertianum (Herb-Robert) and Rumex obtusifolius (Broad-leaved Dock) none of which have been previously recorded for some distance in any direction.

I should have taken a photograph but I was concentrating on wriggling back out of the overhang. The day much improved the status of recording in NG42L which is now off the  bottom of the Cuillin tetrads in terms of post-1999 taxa at 79 cf 19 at the beginning of the year. Thanks to mountaineers who have contributed high-level records.

There were some fine old hollies:

Ancient Holly

Ancient Holly

and a few nice insects.

Small Pearl-borderd Fritillary

Small Pearl-borderd Fritillary

Sawfly probably Tenthredo olivacea TBC

Sawfly: Rhogogaster viridis (Thanks, Jenni.)

and a stonefly:


Stonefly:  Siphonoperla torrentium (TBC, Thanks, Craig)


To Ollach Lochs

June 6, 2019

South of Healabhal Beag (MacLeod’s Table South) there is a group of three lochs that had not been visited by a recording botanist for over fifty years. The tetrad they lie in had a few post-1999 records from when I dropped into the northern edge from Healabhal Beag in 2015, plus a few more from Nick and others. It now has 147 post-1999 species recorded.

Beinn Bhac-ghlais had the sort of things one might expect: Diphasiastrum alpinum, (Alpine Clubmoss), Salix herbacea (Dwarf Willow), Vaccinium vitis-idaea (Cowberry), etc.

One of the lochs had several of this large Caddis-fly which I fear will have to go unidentified:


Unidentified Caddis

and I spotted this micro-moth, the Yellow-Faced Bell (Notocelia cynosbatella) (thanks Keith for ID):

Notocelia cynosbatella

Notocelia cynosbatella

There were Clouded Borders and Chimney Sweepers too.

The area around Orbost turned out to be rather more poorly recorded than I had realised and I added lots of records to adjacent tetrads. Bromus hordeaceus (Soft-brome) is pretty infrequent on Skye and Schedonorus arundinaceus (Tall Fescue) even more so, but both were present along the main track:

When Skye Nature Group was at Uig last week we noted some Alopecurus pratensis (Meadow Foxtail) where the lower part of the inflorescence seemed to be eaten away. There was more like that at Orbost and a similar effect on Anthoxanthum odoratum (Sweet Vernal-grass). I tried to take some photos but they didn’t turn out well enough to share. I am interested to know what causes this, though.

There was also a planted shrub that I haven’t yet managed to identify:

Later: It is a Spiraea, perhaps Spiraea hypericifolia. There is the same thing in Dunvegan Castle grounds and Ingrid has promised to check their records for an ID.

I spotted a fly mine on Atriplex prostrata (Spear-leaved Orache) which Seth tells me is probably Pegomya sp. but one has to rear the fly for a firm ID.

There was also this on Populus tremula (Aspen), which I am hoping will turn out to be caused by an interesting moth:


Those Red Squares

May 18, 2019

Neil has now paddled to the east side of Longay to record in NG63Q and in passing had a look at the northern tip of Pabay where NG62U features on the list of VC104 tetrads. The latter, as shown on the OS map, has no land above the high water mark and unsurprisingly, Neil found it to contain no plants. There are several like this in the vice-county and in future editions of my tetrad numbers map I shall turn these another colour meaning there really are zero vascular plants.

Yesterday Neil kindly shared his double kayak with me and we went to Griana-sgeir off Fladday (itself off Raasay) as this is the only land in NG55Q and never recorded before. We found 23 plants in this small outpost, normally the domain of seals and seabirds.



There is an area of shell sand but it lies entirely below the high water mark, so does not influence the vegetation. The major environmental factor apart from the exposed coastal location appears to be the seabirds, adding nitrogenous material to the area.

Gull nest

Gull nest

I spotted this fly on a dandelion and await Murdo’s verdict, though it may not be possible to determine from an image. I had no net or containers with me, but I did capture some ants….

Fly on Griana-sgeir

Fly on Griana-sgeir

We did not land on Glas Eilean as there is a large tern colony – we estimated about 200 birds, but we did go to Fraoch Eilean which was very different from Griana-sgeir, having rowan trees and bracken – but still only 28 plant species recorded.  Both these islands are in a tetrad that has been well recorded on Raasay but I had never been to them before.

Neil spotted a fabulous little moth Pammene rhediella (Fruitlet Mining Tortrix) on the rowan (there were quite a number of them):

Pammene rhediella

Pammene rhediella on rowan


Coir a’ Ghrunnda

May 13, 2019

I had never been into tetrad NG41P at the southern end of the Cuillins and there were only 21 post-1999 records for it plus about the same from before. Yesterday I went with the intention of doing something about that by visiting the two lochans, the Allt Coir a’ Ghrunnda and the higher rocks for alpines. All this was achieved and the total taxon count now stands at 95.

This view from part of the way up shows Soay in the foreground then Eigg and Rum, and in the distance Muck:

Islands from Coir a' Ghrunnda

Islands from Coir a’ Ghrunnda

There were two plants recorded from the more southerly lochan that have not been recorded in NG41 since before 2000: Isoetes lacustris (Quillwort) and Sparganium natans (Least Bur-reed). I only found the former.

However, I added Salix x ambigua (S. aurita x repens)to NG41. It is quite widespread in the Black Cuillins in NG42 so it was no great surprise to find it just over the 10km square boundary. The first one I found was in open ground and grazed but as I worked my way up the corry there was quite a lot more, some fruiting:

Salix phylicifolia

I found that I had wandered so far up Coir a’ Ghrunnda that I was within 20m of the next tetrad north, NG42K, and not far inside it there was Loch Coir a’ Ghrunnda, so I made the extra effort.

Loch Coir a' Ghrunnda

Loch Coir a’ Ghrunnda

The only vascular plant I could see in the loch was Juncus bulbosus (Bulbous Rush) but there was a good colony of Saussurea alpina (Alpine Saw-wort) nearby.

Part way up I spotted this cranefly:



Thinking that pattern on the thorax like a gurning gargoyle would make it easy to identify, I didn’t take it. Doh! My friendly fly experts can’t do it from the image. On the bright side I did take a couple of crane-flies from 600-700m altitude so I am hoping that they turn out to be interesting.